The underdog

Greyhounds are great, but most folk get on better with a border collie

Photos by Chris Dickinson

DESPITE THE DOMINATOR name, Norton’s first stab at a sporting twin didn’t exactly rule the postwar world.

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Designer Bert Hopwood built a bike that was rather more robust than the sparkling Triumph speedsters, but which had little in common with Norton’s glorious prewar sporting singles.

The featured Dominator is a 1953 machine, one of the first Model 7s to be equipped with swinging arm suspension. Until very recently it’s been owned by just one family who’ve kept it very standard and original – apart from a new front wheel rim and service items it’s very much as it left Bracebridge Street
The featured Dominator is a 1953 machine, one of the first Model 7s to be equipped with swinging arm suspension. Until very recently it’s been owned by just one family who’ve kept it very standard and original – apart from a new front wheel rim and service items it’s very much as it left Bracebridge Street

An all-new 500cc twin from the marque with 21 TT wins to its credit was expected to be exceptional – and instead the new Dominator was merely proficient, reliable, well-made and mannerly.

Consequently, the Model 7 was damned by faint praise. It “had a disappointing performance” according to marque historian Mick Woollett. “It was fast but lacked the mid-range torque that the other twins had… It was no match for the already well-established Triumph Tiger 100. The Norton was overweight at 440lb – no less than 50lb heavier than the Triumph 500 twins!”

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Some of that extra mass came from the Model 7’s plunger suspension, which offered a little more comfort and better roadholding than Triumph’s primitive sprung hub arrangement. Even so, the new Dominator’s bend-swinging abilities didn’t live up to the marque’s ‘unapproachable’ competition credentials, as trials rider Don Morley explained: “The roadholding and handling of these bikes, frankly, were anything but good, not least because they shared exactly the same running gear as the equally-poor-steering single cylinder job… this bike’s handling left a lot to be desired.”

Read more in December’s issue of CBG

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